St Joseph – Spouse of the Blessed Virgin, Patron of the Universal Church, Terror of Demons

Calx Mariae (no. 4)

“Some Saints are privileged to extend to us their patronage with particular efficacy in certain needs, but not in others; but our holy patron St Joseph has the power to assist us in all cases, in every necessity, in every undertaking.” (St Thomas Aquinas)

The power and grandeur of St Joseph exceed all human imagination. And even so, his humble life, so close to the Word Incarnate, provides us with an example to follow in every aspect of our lives. Everything we know about his life and person is in relation to the Divine Child and His Blessed Mother. That is, all we know about St Joseph is his reaction to the divine mystery that was unfolded under his paternal watch. There is nothing known about St Joseph that is separate from Jesus and Mary. What better model could we desire to imitate in this time of Lent in order to lose our own interests and transform everything in our lives into the service of God and His Blessed Mother, generously and totally, without reserve – however, at the same time giving ourselves to the service of God with a heart filled with God, with a heart that lives with Him and is nourished by ceaseless prayer.

Spouse of the Blessed Virgin

Saint Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444) invites us to consider the noble birth of St Joseph, the bridegroom: 

“He was born of Patriarchal, Royal and Princely stock, in a direct line, as has been said. For Saint Matthew, in his first chapter, established a direct line with all the aforementioned fathers from Abraham to the spouse of the Virgin, clearly demonstrating that all patriarchal, royal and princely dignity come together in him…” 1

The nobility of birth must be complemented with the nobility of nature. Dr Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira notes: “To even begin to comprehend the nature of St Joseph… we must bear in mind two awe-inspiring facts. St Joseph is the virgin-husband of Our Lady and the guardian-father of Our Lord.”2 Furthermore:

“The husband must be proportional to the wife. St Joseph’s spouse is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the most perfect of all creatures, and masterpiece of the Creator’s handiwork. In her incomparable person, we find the sum of all the virtues of all the angels, and saints, indeed all creation until the end of time… From among all men, God chose one man worthy to love and honour the Mother of His Only-Begotten Son as her husband. He was a husband proportional to his wife in love of God, purity, wisdom, justice — in every virtue. St Joseph was that man.” 3

“However,” he continues, “there remains something even more incomprehensible. The father must be proportional to his son, and, as we have noted, the Son for Whom God sought an earthly father was none other than His Own. There could be but one man fit for such an awesome responsibility, the man God created for precisely this vocation and whose soul He crowned with every virtue. That man, too, was St Joseph.” 4

Even considering the royal line which St Joseph belonged to by birth, it is difficult to fully imagine the grandeur of St Joseph.

Protector of the Universal Church

On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 8 December 1870, Blessed Pope Pius IX, following appeals received from bishops worldwide, had declared St Joseph to be Patron of the Universal Church, “in this most sorrowful time” when “the Church herself is beset by enemies on every side and oppressed by heavy calamities, so that impious men imagine that the gates of Hell are at length prevailing against her”.

Pope Leo XIII, to whom it was revealed in 1884 that Satan would be given, for a time, increased power to work for the destruction of the Church, instituted a new devotion to St Joseph in his encyclical letter Quamquam pluries (1889). Pope Leo XIII wrote:

“During periods of stress and trial – chiefly when every lawlessness of act seems permitted to the powers of darkness – it has been the custom in the Church to plead with special fervour and perseverance to God, her author and protector, by recourse to the intercession of the saints – and chiefly of the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God – whose patronage has ever been the most efficacious.”

He further explained:

“We see faith, the root of all the Christian virtues, lessening in many souls; we see charity growing cold; the young generation daily growing in depravity of morals and views; the Church of Jesus Christ attacked on every side by open force or by craft; a relentless war waged against the Sovereign Pontiff; and the very foundations of religion undermined with a boldness which waxes daily in intensity… In circumstances so unhappy and troublous, human remedies are insufficient, and it becomes necessary, as a sole resource, to beg for assistance from the Divine power.”

Today the evils identified by Pope Leo XIII have intensified to a degree that would have been inconceivable to most people in 1889. Thousands of innocent children are slaughtered every day with the approval of the governments that ought to be defending them, the sanctity of marriage is defiled by divorce, adultery and contraception, and the bonds between parents and their children are being deliberately targeted for destruction by the most powerful states and institutions in the world. Worst of all, the Pope himself is responsible for the spread of errors which are leading the flock away from Christ and towards eternal damnation.

However greater the depths to which society has sunk today, we must not look for new remedies. Pope Leo XIII urged the faithful to combat these evils through the praying of the Holy Rosary, but he also directed the faithful towards St Joseph:

“But We entertain another object, which, according to your wont, Venerable Brethren, you will advance with fervour. That God may be more favourable to Our prayers, and that He may come with bounty and promptitude to the aid of His Church, We judge it of deep utility for the Christian people, continually to invoke with great piety and trust, together with the Virgin-Mother of God, her chaste Spouse, the Blessed Joseph; and We regard it as most certain that this will be most pleasing to the Virgin herself.”

He further explained:

“[T]he divine house which Joseph ruled with the authority of a father, contained within its limits the scarce-born Church. From the same fact that the Most Holy Virgin is the mother of Jesus Christ, she is the mother of all Christians, whom she bore on Mount Calvary amid the supreme throes of the Redemption; Jesus Christ is, in one manner, the first-born of Christians, who by the adoption and Redemption are his brothers. And for such reasons the Blessed Patriarch looks upon the multitude of Christians who make up the Church as confided specially to his trust – this limitless family spread over the earth, over which, because he is the spouse of Mary and the Father of Jesus Christ he holds, as it were, a paternal authority. It is, then, natural and worthy that as the Blessed Joseph ministered to all the needs of the family at Nazareth and girt it about with his protection, he should now cover with the cloak of his heavenly patronage and defend the Church of Jesus Christ.”

On 19 March, the Church presents St Joseph, the great Patriarch, to whose care God willed to entrust the most precious portion of His flock, Mary and Jesus. Because Joseph was the protector and guardian of them on earth, the Church recognises him as the guardian and protector of all Christendom.

Terror of Demons

God chose St Joseph to be the spouse of His Mother. God placed the universal Church under his care. But why precisely are the demons terrified of him?

St Joseph is the terror of demons, because he is a pure man: pure in thought, pure in heart, body and soul. He was destined to be the most chaste spouse of Mary Most Holy conceived without sin. In the face of complete purity and holiness, the ugly, filthy infernal spirits must dread and flee.

St Joseph is the terror of demons, because he is a humble man, who bore the trials of poverty, exile and rejection by unfaithful men with unwavering trust in God. The proud demons are unable to bear godly humility.

St Joseph is the terror of demons because he has unshakable faith. Joseph knew by faith that Jesus was his God. However, he needed deep faith to deal with the perplexity aroused in his mind by Mary’s maternity, the anxieties in Bethlehem, the privations during the flight to Egypt. These and many other trials afflicted his sensitive soul to such an extent that on several occasions an intervention of an angel was needed to sustain him and explain the depths of the divine mystery that he was part of. St Joseph allowed himself to be guided with the docility and confidence of a child, as testified in the Gospel on four occasions: when the angel told him not to leave Mary, because of her mysterious maternity (Mt 1:20-24); when the angel told him to flee to Egypt (Mt 2:13); when the angel informed him about the death of King Herod (Mt 2:19); and when the angel warned him to withdraw to Galilee (Mt 2:22). 

Dr Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira has also pointed out that at all these very troubling times, when angelic intervention was needed, St Joseph slept: “Overwhelmed by an enormous suffering, he slept nevertheless. The angel appeared to him explaining the situation. He went on sleeping. At dawn, he awoke and life went on normally. This was the height of normality, the height of coherence, the height of logic!”

St Joseph neither hesitated nor reasoned; he made no objection; for he had complete trust in God. He believed in Him fully – in His Word and in His Divine Providence. No wonder that the demons have no power over him!

Let us imitate at this holy season of Lent, the purity, humility and spirit of prayer of St Joseph. Let us ask for strong faith from our heavenly patron in every need. Let us beg his continuous and powerful protection for the Church, Our Mother who is so sorely afflicted by demons of impurity, pride and infidelity. Having been the faithful guardian of the Holy Family on earth, we can have no doubt about St Joseph’s heavenly protection of the great Christian family, the universal Church. 

St Joseph, terror of demons, pray for us!

  1. Sancti Bernardini Senensis Sermones Eximii, (Venice: in Aedibus Andreae Poletti, 1745), Vol. 4, p. 232.
  2. Dr Plinio Corrêade Oliveira, Saint Joseph, Martyr of Grandeur, http://www.tfp.org/saint-joseph-martyr-of-grandeur/
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.